Cruise Tips - Shore Excursions

  • Unless you're on a "cruise to nowhere," you'll probably be visiting some interesting places.  Make the most of your memories -- book shore excursions through your cruise line.  Some might be duds, but most will be a lot of fun, and some will even be great experiences you'll remember for years.  Overall, the cruise lines do a good job of setting up high quality shore excursions.  Some of our best memories of foreign countries are from the interaction we had with our local tour guides.

  • Take advantage of very unusual shore excursions.  For example, our helicopter flight and landing on a glacier in Alaska was the highlight of not only that cruise, but is also one of the highlights of all of the cruises we have taken. 

  • Cruise tips -- book your shore excursions early.  The good shore excursions (the ones you really want) sell out fast.  Many cruise lines now offer online booking, and you should take advantage of it as early as you can.  

  • Book through the cruise line.  Sure, you can save a little money by booking direct with a local tour operator, but there are several advantages to booking shore excursions directly with the cruise line.  First, the tour operator has been pre-screened by the cruise line, and is used repeatedly by them.  This is especially important when you are not on U.S. soil.  Second, if something happens to delay your return, the ship will probably wait for you.  As our ship pulled away from the dock in Stockholm, Sweden in 2003, we watched a cab come speeding down the dock and screech to a halt.  A man jumped out and ran to the edge of the dock -- obviously someone who had arrived too late.  The ship kept going, leaving him behind.  This type of situation is especially troublesome if you are not on U.S. soil.

  • Many times your ship will dock at a downtown location, so you can walk on and off the ship at your leisure.  Use this opportunity to do some additional exploring.  Be sure to listen carefully to the port information talk given on the ship, and be especially alert if you are off the ship after dark.  Remember, if you are at all uncomfortable, check with the ship's activities director.  Try to go out in groups of four or six -- this is a good chance to socialize with your dinner dining companions.

  • Typically, your shore excursion tickets are printed off and left in your cabin for you prior to your boarding the ship, so they are waiting for you when you arrive on your first day.  They are usually not mailed to you prior to the cruise.

  • When you book a shore excursion through the cruise line, the tour operator comes to your ship and collects all of the tour participants.  On most bus tours, the tour actually starts from the parking lot where the ship is docked.  And, you are returned to the ship at the end of the tour.  Some cruise lines, such as Celebrity, may assign one of their own crew members to accompany the tour guide if the group is large. 

  • The day before you arrive in a port, your cruise director on the ship will give a lecture and will cover all of the sights to see and the best deals for shopping.  This lecture will be replayed a number of times on the ship's TV channel, so you don't have to worry about missing it. 


Useful Links

Guide to Travel Insurance

Norwalk Virus & Cruise Ship Illness

CDC Sanitation Inspection Results for Cruise Ships








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